Jan M. Smits, The Expanding Circle of Contract Law (September 1, 2016). Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2016/03. Available at SSRN
People and corporations are increasing held liable in private law for the external effects of their actions, in particular in cases that involve some fundamental aspect of “justice” such as severe violations of labour standards or threats to the environment. These public interests are traditionally guarded by the state, but are now increasingly enforced by private individuals, in particular in cross-border situations where the injustice takes place in a “far-away” country. This contribution explores what is the potential of contract law in dealing with this “private law justice across borders.” It asks whether the doctrine of privity of contract should be traded in for an approach that better takes the externalities of contracts into account. It is argued that current contract law is ill-suited to deal with this challenge and should adopt new techniques to expand the circle of people contract law seeks to protect.